ATX Roundtable Interview with Younger’s Miriam Shor and Charles Michael Davis
While I was at ATX Television Festival, I got the chance to participate in a roundtable with Younger’s Miriam Shor (Diana) and Charles Michael Davis (Zane). They touched on how the show has been impacted by the #MeToo movement, Miriam’s directorial debut, whether or not Zane can be trusted and so much more. Keep reading to see what they had to say.
So the #MeToo movement. I think it’s interesting that last season started with, “Okay, we’re going to talk about alternative facts. This is what’s happening, this is what we’re going to talk about.” And then this year we start with the #MeToo movement.
Miriam: Our writers are great. And with such a light touch. They keep humor involved. It’s organic. It feels right that these characters would be talking about this. But I know that [our] writers have talked about, in light of what’s changed in-between season four and season five in the world, they had to go back and look at the stories that they had told. All of us had to, and kind of reexamine what used to seem funny isn’t so funny right now. Then they brought it up, and not just that, also the relationship between Charles and Liza, they had to sort of look at that and it’s just so smart. I was so proud of our show that they’re not afraid. They’re clearly not afraid. Look what they did at the end of episode one. They just threw a grenade in their story. They addressed it head on. Because how can you talk about a workplace, and women in the workplace, now without talking about that and be genuine? It was really nice. It was nice to be a part of that conversation. The fact that they were also able to make it funny – my character had an experience, obviously, with it and how she compartmentalized it for herself to get through – they were able to keep it true to who she is.
But at the same time, trying to support Liza as she’s going through her experience.
Miriam: Yeah. Exactly.
Charles: Even if it will destroy the company.
Miriam: It put themselves in awkward positions. Then Liza says, no, she’s fine, which is not really necessarily true… to let her discover that, to let us, like we all are at this point of discovery about how we feel about it. That’s great that we’re examining it and so are the characters. It was really cool. I’m proud of it.
Charles, you were a recurring character last season and now you’re a series regular. What is that experience like, being around this cast for a full season and just being on set and being a part of the story full-time?
Miriam: You’re so put on the spot [laughs]. Because you can’t be like, “They’re rough, guys. It’s real rough working with them. Miriam is a lot.”
Charles: Now somebody said it. She is a lot [laughs]. No, they’re great. I count myself very lucky because I’ve been on different shows and different casts and they’ve all been pretty, pretty good. Good pedigree. My manager always comments on it. So for me, its kind of like it feels comfortable. It feels normal. It’s what I’ve always known, so [it ] just feels very familial. But for me personally, it’s such a surprise. Because I pinch myself like, “Here we are.” I came in season four, while on another show still running, and then right off of that show I’m immediately made a regular during one of the best seasons, so far. You guys have all said with one of the best storylines.
Miriam: Stop being so good. Aim for mediocrity. Maybe you won’t be so successful. I’m just saying, up until this point, that’s what I did.
Charles: I’m just lucky. Really, really lucky. And it’s gotten me here. There’s a trust in that, which is something that I had to do when I first moved out to LA and wanted to be an actor. It’s all paid off. It’s like a validation when I look around and everything’s worked out.
Miriam: I moderated a panel yesterday so now I’m thinking like Y’all. What is it like to do a comedy? You’ve been doing so much drama. Sorry guys [to the press].
No, you’re such a pro. Please.
Charles: At first, I didn’t know. It’s funny because I was on the show called The Game, which was a comedy on The CW. Then when they moved to BET, they made it a drama. I didn’t know that and I thought, “I’m supposed to be funny. They want me to be aggressive. I don’t know if that’s funny.” And they go, “Oh, no, no. The whole tone has changed.” Before that, I did a show for TNT or a pilot for TNT and they brought me in and I was chatting with the head of casting. She goes, “You know what, not to pigeonhole you, but drama is your thing.” I argued with her for 10 minutes. “Well, I did this co-star, five lines on That’s So Raven — I’m funny.” I was like, “Why did I argue with someone who’s the head of a network whose slogan is ‘Drama — It’s what we do. We know drama.'” Why did I try to convince her that I’m also funny? That meeting ended real fast. So when I was coming off of the show, that was a pure, pure drama, no real light moments and I got onto this show, I was kind of freaking out because I was like, “You know, I got to work on my comedy training.” Then, after the first few episodes of filming, I realized, “Oh, this is how I fit into the world.” I don’t necessarily have to be as funny as Miriam is because she’s really, really funny. I can just sit and admire and know that my character needs to be charming and ambitious and kind of help drive and push Kelsey in one direction and fill this part in for Empirical. It helped me look back though and go back to when I was in that meeting and go, “You know, you were funny.”
Miriam: I mean, comedy can be tougher than drama on some levels.
Charles: It is.
Miriam: To get the tone exactly right. But I think our writers, and we as a cast, have a great time, which is really evident when you watch the show. The chemistry.
Charles: Yeah. But my job is to set it up and then Miriam knocks it down.
I heard that you [Miriam] have an interesting storyline. I don’t know what it is, but that’s what we heard through the grapevine.
Miriam: I have some … a little romance sneaks back into my life from an old flame that throws me for a loop and makes me vulnerable, which is my favorite thing to do, when the writers tap into Diana’s discomfort zone. I always loved that and [when they] force her to confront her own vulnerability, which is always fun and challenging and fun to play and [makes] for interesting storytelling. It gets fun.
Charles: My god, it gets really, really funny.
Miriam: There was a blast from the past that is nice to have back. And yeah, it’s been great. This whole season has been just a fantastic season for all of our characters. We were all able to have moments where you really get to see who we are.
Charles: Yeah, to grow and to know from the beginning they’re not in the same place at the end. I just keep thinking about, in your storyline, where you’re on the streets of New York City [laughs]. She has this iceberg moment that reveals…
Miriam: It’ll make more sense later, cryptic and we have to keep it that way. But I also directed this year.
I was going to say, Debbie mentioned that you were in the director’s chair this year. What was that like?
Miriam: Incredible. It was everything. I’m 46 and I challenged myself to do something really intense and I feel like I learned a lot and found that I’m good at something I didn’t know I was good at it before and I love it. It was great. And Charles actually was helpful because he has directed before, on a previous show, and I talked with him about it and he was so encouraging. It was really helpful.
Charles: I try to be low key about it, like, “Oh, you should do it. It’ll be easy.” But secretly, I knew what it would kind of do to you. It’s nice to hear talk about it before, where it opens you up and you realize you can use yourself in a different capacity. And now that you have that there’s a knowledge of, “Oh, I can go there and I can do that.”
Miriam: It was really, really, really fun. I mean, I know the show so well, so I came to it with a lot to offer, which I learned, which was great.
Charles: You’ve done more episodes than any other director.
Miriam: Yeah, well there’s not another director, other than maybe another actor on the show or Darren or one of the producers, who would come in and understand these people and this story as well as I could. So I had that and then 20 years on a TV set too. You’re bound to learn a little and I pay attention and of course, I’ve shadowed directors and did my homework.
Charles: Were there any tricks that you played on the actors because you know their different acting styles and you think about how to talk to each one?
Miriam: You know what? We’re all really intelligent, talented actors. And I fell in love with all the actors on this show so deeply after directing them. In a way … my appreciation for you guys is tenfold now. I think true craftspeople, you know? It’s collaborative. I come from theater, we’re all making this story together. I don’t need to be tricked. I don’t appreciate that when I’m an actor. I want to be a part of the storytelling. I feel like I could come to you guys and say, “Here’s what I need and here’s how I view what this character is going through” and find a way. It was actually really easy to talk to you guys. I felt like you were all really responsive and felt like I knew exactly what I wanted and I knew how to convey it, which was great.
Miriam: It was episode 5. I watched it and I’m like, “Oh, this looks like an episode of Younger.” I really understand the tone of the show and our crew is unbelievable. We have a lot of the same crew that’s traveled through each season with us. We keep our same crew, which is amazing. It doesn’t always happen. I mean, my episode was female director, a female first AD, female writer, female editor.
Miriam: Female scripty, a gender fluid character that was [played by] a gender fluid actor. So it’s just really great, really fun experience and everybody is so good at what they do. And I’m happy to delegate. That’s why we have a whole crew of people there. It’s not a one-person show. It was really good.
Charles: You got to be the boss.
Miriam: I have to say, playing a boss has helped me feel comfortable as a boss.
Miriam: Yeah, I’m a much nicer boss, I think, than Diana. Kindness is very important to me. I don’t know if it’s on the top of Diana’s list [laughs], but it’s on the top of mine. Kindness, appreciation, gratitude, you know, those are things that are important to me. I think [for] Diana they fall somewhere down towards the bottom. But in terms of feeling the confidence to be the boss of the situation and to make the decisions, I learned a lot from playing this woman who is unapologetically confident in her own abilities.
Talk about what we’re going to see from your character this season. Because I think your character is interesting, because I don’t know how I feel about him. Do I trust him?
Charles: You know, people would say that about a lot of the characters that I’ve played. “I don’t know if I should trust you.” And I’m always like, “I’m so trustworthy.”
Miriam: And a sweetheart. You are.
Charles: But in real life, am I like that?
Miriam: No, but in real life, I’m not like Diana.
Charles: But there’s that quality that comes out. As far as asking what can you expect? We get to see a little bit more behind the character and he makes some decisions that go against who you think he is this season. Some of those decisions involve Kelsey, and some of those take place with Charles and…
Miriam: You’ll surprise people with some of the storyline, in a great way.
Charles: Yeah, I think that’s the thing, that facade. You know? Like Liza leads with this facade of she’s younger, but underneath that, she has so much experience and so much to offer. But we would have discredited that because we’re looking for the facade. With Zane, the suits provide a bit of a facade, but underneath, he cares and is a little bit of a romantic and he really wants to do well. He also wants to help others, so we get to see that.
Just one last, fun question because the show revolves around publishing. Do you guys have a favorite book that has made an impact on you or that you just love?
Miriam: Oh, there’s a lot of the things. Part of the thing that I love about the show is that I love books so much. So the fact that we get to talk about books and we play people, who viewers watch and love, who also love books and that we can bring that world to people is so important to me. The New York Public Library gives a literary award to… they nominate five up and coming writers, who it’s maybe either their first or second novel, and I got to go and read an excerpt from one of those novels. I’m reading those books right now… So at any given moment, there’s a series of books that have an effect on me.
Charles: You ever go on Youtube and see that guy Tai Lopez? He’s like, “Here I am with my Lamborghini” but his whole thing is he wants to sell you on the big house and the Lamborghini, and then when you go to his website, he wants you to just read books.
Charles: Yeah. He has this thing, 67 steps, and each step comes from a book. So I was like, “I’m going to do this.” So everything he referenced, I read every book. He would reference Charlie Munger, the business partner of Warren Buffett, who has a book called Poor Charlie’s Almanack, and in it, you get his insights. He [Tai] references the way he thinks… So from that, I had read Freud and Group Theory and then also read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biography.